I was exposed by my friend, the Israeli lawyer Eitay Mack, to the military training and arms sales by retired Israeli Defense Forces officers and politicians, to dictators and countries where there have been civil wars. I was shocked. I realized that these sales have been exercised for decades all over the globe. The sales go very well, as the ammunition and weapons have been proven successful in the field. I realized that the victims of the Israeli military industry are not only the Palestinians, the guinea pigs. I realized that intensifying wars around the world are very beneficial.
This is a huge secret, even though, at any arms fair, Israel is presented openly with much respect. Of course I would not be surprised that very civilized western countries also benefit from this industry and these wars too. But the Christian Science Monitor did an article about Mack last month, in which he reported on a visit to Israel from leaders of the military government in Myanmar, which Europe is embargoing for arms:
[I]n September Israel hosted a senior Army delegation from Myanmar, which included a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and visits to leading weapons technology producer Elbit Systems Ltd. and naval and air force bases. The European Union has imposed an arms embargo, and the United States military sanctions, against the Southeast Asian regime because of its poor human rights record…
Mack says Myanmar is just the tip of the iceberg. In recent years there have been reports in Israeli and international news media, and from organizations such as Privacy International (based in Britain) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, of Israel providing weapons to regimes that are egregious human rights abusers without having a prior national discussion.
I strongly believe that this secret must be disclosed to the public. Human rights organizations should push for unmasking the military deals that Israel has with other countries and militant entities. This is not an issue just for one idealistic man. True, Eitay Mack is very brave. He is active in a country where fascism is growing rapidly and forcefully. But it is time to share these terrible crimes that currently lay on one man’s shoulders.
Five days ago, Mack sent the following letter to the Israeli ministry of defense, urging it to activate a law that bars the export of arms to forces that are responsible for human rights atrocities, similar to the Leahy law in the U.S. The letter concerns Israeli sales to Burundi.
Mr. Dubi Lavi
Defense Exports Controls Agency
Ministry of Defense
Re: Urgent request to activate Provision 9 of the Defense Export Control Law regarding arms sales to Burundi
1. This request is made in my name and in the name of the following human rights activists: Ms. Ada Bilu, Ms. Noni Tal, Ms. Neriah Biala, Ms. Tsillah Goldenberg, Mr. Guy Butavia and Mr. Guy Hirschfeld (Powers of attorney are attached).
2. As is known, since the President of Burundi, Mr. Pierre Nkurunziza declared his intention to run for a third term, that country has been in a grave political crisis that has deteriorated into a state of incessant violence.
3. Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Demographically the composition of its population – 85% Hutu and 14 % Tutsi – is similar to that of its neighbor to the north, Rwanda. Since Burundi attained independence, instability, violence and military intervention in politics have reigned there.
4. At the start of the 2000s, Burundi emerged from a decade of murderous civil war, mostly along ethnic (Tutsi and Hutu) lines in which, according to all estimates, some 300,000 people were killed. Since the signing of the peace accord in 2000 and the ratification of a new constitution in 2005, there has been relative, although somewhat problematic, stability in Burundi, with, for example, armed elements and other factors who had been involved in the civil war quickly moving over into politics. The elections held in 2010 were stormy and characterized by political violence and government persecution of civil rights and opposition activists.
5. Despite the poverty of Burundi and the total lack of natural resources, in recent years its position in the global community has improved, particularly thanks to its contribution, since 2007, of troops to regional international forces, such as the African Union’s force in Somalia (AMISOM), and the force in the Central African Republic. The participation of soldiers from Burundi in regional international forces contributed to an improvement in the professionalism and reliability of the Burundian army, transforming it into a body which is relatively less corrupt and involved in politics that other security forces in that country.
6. As of 2014, President Nkurunziza has waged a campaign for his election for the third time (his supporters claim it is a second term because he was not elected for his first term in a general election). In April 2015, the ruling party, CNDD-FDD, announced that Mr. Nkurunziza would be its candidate for the presidency, an act that led to an abortive attempted military coup on May 13 2015. In July, Mr. Nkurunziza was elected for a third term in an illegitimate election that was held despite a boycott by the opposition.
7. Since April, the political crisis in Burundi has deepened , while at the same time the violence and grave human rights violations have increased, both by the security forces and militias that back Mr. Nkurunziza, as well as by the security forces and militias that support the opposition. For example, demonstrators are being murdered at protests and in homes; bodies of people – including children – who have been shot are found with their hands tied behind their backs; some of the bodies are mutilated with slashed organs; detainees are tortured by the security forces; human rights activists are murdered and disappeared; the government and the opposition carry revenge attacks in neighborhoods identified with their adversaries, and sporadic battles take place in various places, notably in the capital Bujumbura.
8. Despite the strong international pressure on his government President Nkurunziza does not intend to concede. He has declared that the security forces will raid the homes of citizens identified with the opposition: Even today, the security forces raid homes and arbitrarily arrest their inhabitants only on the grounds that the building is located in a street in which the opposition has held a protest. Senior officials of the security forces and the ruling party use incendiary language calling for the annihilation of their opponents, language that recalls the threats of the period before the genocide in Rwanda. Furthermore, elements in the security forces have transferred arms to the youth of the ruling party, known as the Imbonerakure.
9. Since parts of the Burundian army, upon which many in the international community had pinned great hopes, have joined in the violence and are perpetrating crimes and grave violations of human rights, together with police force (PNB) and the secret service (SNR), the United States announced that as of May 2015 there would be a significant cut in the military training and assistance to the Burundian army, and in particular to the army units involved in the violence. The defense exports from the European Union to Burundi, which was already limited (since the end of the civil war) was also further reduced.
10. Although the conflict is mainly internal, amongst the Hutu, between various factions in the ruling party and against the largest opposition party, the FNL, which is also Hutu, the political crisis is liable to very quickly take on an ethnic (Hutu-Tutsi) color, and warnings of a deterioration into genocide have been voiced.
11. In accordance with the preparations in the international community, in particular the United States and the countries of the European Union, if the political crisis in Burundi is not resolved immediately, a full-scale murderous civil war could break out there and it could spread to neighboring states: Part of the crisis in the neighboring states could be caused by the influx of refugees from Burundi (so far, some 200,000 have left the country) and the activity there of various militias participating in the Burindi conflict, with the situation especially delicate in East Congo. Similarly, there is apprehension that Rwanda could decide to intervene in the fighting in Burundi, something that could lead to regional warfare. Burundi and Rwanda have been in a state of great tension since 2014, when bodies were found in the border area between the two and they accused each other.
12. On November 12 2015, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution No. 2248: “Strongly condemning the increased cases of human rights violations and abuses, including those involving extra-judicial killings, acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman and/or degrading treatment, arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and journalists, and all violations and abuses of human rights committed in Burundi both by security forces and by militias and other illegal armed groups.”
The Council expressed its support for the efforts of the African Union to bring an end to the political crisis by peaceful means, and this resolution was one stage before the imposition of some form of sanctions on the country. The Council made it clear in this resolution that it would weigh taking measures against those responsible for the crimes and for undermining peace in Burundi.
13. Accordingly, on November 23 2015, President Barack Obama of the United States signed an executive order imposing sanctions against four high-ranking figures in Burundi: the minister of internal security, the chief of police, the former head of the intelligence service, and the former minister of defense.
14. As far as is known, the State of Israel has been involved in events in Burundi for years. In the vicious civil war in the 1990s, Israelis both trained forces and supplied weapons. After the war ended, defense exports to Burundi continued, and included weapons, training and electronics equipment. Furthermore, as far as is known according to reports in the media, Mr. Gabriel Peretz, owner of the AD Con company, which deals inter alia in the supply of weapons and military equipment and military-oriented consultancy, was the honorary consul of Burundi in Israel.
15. In the July 2015 Amnesty International report entitled “Braving Bullets – Excessive force in Policing Demonstrations in Burundi” it was stated that Israeli-made gas grenades and water cannon were used against the demonstrators. Dozens of people were killed in these demonstrations.
16. In recent years a revolution has been taking place in the responsibility attributed to countries that export defense equipment for the use made of that equipment. See for example, the ruing of the International Criminal Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) on the matter of the former president of Liberia Charles Taylor (Prosecutor v. Taylor, Case No. SCSL-03-01-A, Judgment, Sep. 26, 2013). Taylor was convicted of abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity, inter alia, for supporting and transferring arms to the RUF organization. The same is true for the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR) which clarified definitions of “abetting” and “participating”. According to the ICTY the abettor must give assistance to the perpetrator of the crime in the knowledge that the perpetrator intends to carry out the crime but does not himself have to support the goal of the perpetrator of the crime. Moreover, it is not important whether the assistance is given to the perpetrator before, during or after the execution of the crime (Prosecutor v. Blaskic, Case No. IT-95-14 [Trial Chamber], March 3, 2000) According to the ICTR (Prosecutor v. Akayesu, Case No. ICTR-96-4-T [Trial Chamber], September 2, 1998) one of the elements in participating in genocide is “complicity by procuring means, such as weapons, instruments or any other means, used to commit genocide, with the accomplice knowing that such means would be used for such a purpose.”
17. As stated, American military assistance and defense exports to Burundi have been curtailed since May 2015, in the wake of the application of the Leahy Law (A bill submitted by Knesset Member Tamar Sandberg, based on a Hebrew language version of this, was recently rejected by the Knesset). Although today the only restriction on defense exports provided for in the Israeli Law on the Control of Defense Exports 2007 is not present (there is no Security Council embargo on Burundi), and neither the United States nor Europe has yet activated a full embargo of their own against defense exports to Burundi, it is nevertheless clear which way the wind is blowing and what the dangers are that are at stake.
18. It is incumbent upon you to take into account that the continuation of Israeli defense exports to Burundi is liable to have far reaching consequences, both in the event that for example an international tribunal is established in the future on the civil war that appears to be incipient there, and also regarding the possibility that restrictions will be imposed on the import by the State of Israel of components of defense equipment from the United States and European countries.
19. It behooves the State of Israel to learn the lessons from the defense exports during the genocide in Burundi’s northern neighbor, Rwanda.
20. In the light of all of the above, you are hereby requested to reexamine all of the licenses granted for defense exports to Burundi, to exercise your authority under Paragraph 9 of the Law on the Control of Defense Exports 2007, and order the cancellation or suspension of export licenses that the IDECA (Israel Defense Export Control Agency) has given for exports to Burundi, at least to the security units and the various factors about which it is already known that they are involved in committing crimes and grave violations of human rights.
21. In addition, you are hereby requested to ascertain that Israeli defense exports to countries close to Burundi (in particular Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo) will not be transferred directly or indirectly to parties in Burundi or outside Burundi that threaten the peace, security and stability of Burundi.
22. Due to the urgency of the matter, we would be grateful for a reply within 14 days.
Eitay Mack, Advocate